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With Narrator, your Mac will read out a play or story with different voices for each of the parts. It uses speech synthesis to read out marked passages using specified voice attributes. You can choose different voices, rates, pitches, inflections, and volumes for each character in the story. The words are highlighted on-screen, and there are also silent read-along options for stage directions, or for you to read out your own parts.
Now, with version 2, you can have multiple chapters in each document to help organize the story, use a word replacement dictionary to fine-tune the pronunciation, and export the story as an AAC sound file. You may also export your Narrator audio file to iTunes and listen on an iPod or iPhone, like creating your own audiobook! Version 2 also brings you many other appearance and functionality improvements.
Give Voice to Your Stories
Narrator’s main function is to read stories out loud; having a range of actors to perform the roles is important. Mac OS X comes with several high-quality synthesized voices, plus a selection of cartoonish novelty options. You can also get additional voices, in several languages, from the third-party supplier Cepstral. See the Narrator Voice Talent page to audition these actors.
Using the controls in the Narrator document sidebar, you can pick a voice actor, and adjust the speed they speak, the pitch of their voice, the inflection tone (from flat and robotic to excited), and the volume. This enables a wide range of expressiveness when performing your story.
There are also a couple of special silent actors: one that reads along with the text, rather like a karaoke machine, so you can speak your part, and the other that skips over the text, optionally with a short delay; good for stage directions.
Show Your Character
Like in a play or TV show, the actors play a cast of characters to bring the story to life. Narrator uses this metaphor to assign voices to passages of your story. You can add any number of characters in the sidebar, assigning different actors to each, or use the same actor for multiple characters with different voice attributes, for example normal and whispering, or slow and reflective in thought or hurried.
To help organize the characters, you can write some comments about them, and can assign a color to help distinguish them.
Characters are assigned to your story very easily — via a drag, double-click, toolbar click, or menu command. A marker is inserted in the text, indicating where their passage begins. When reading the story, Narrator seamlessly switches between characters, so they can have a conversation.
Chapter and Verse
For short stories, organization of the text isn’t an issue. But for longer works, it can be useful to break the story up into multiple chapters. Narrator supports this. You can have any number of chapters for the story, or perhaps sections for extensive notes on the characters, or background information.
Listen on Your iPod
It’s easy to play the speech within Narrator. But you’re not limited to that: you can also export the speech directly to iTunes, where you can listen to it over and over, or sync it to your iPod or iPhone. This enables you to create your own audiobooks from text — for example, take a work of classic literature from Project Gutenberg, assign characters to the story, and export to iTunes.
There is also an export option for AAC sound files, for use with other sound playing software, for example using as a soundtrack in iMovie, or as a screencast voiceover.
Add a Little Style
Narrator has style… style sheets, that is. It has a full range of rich text formatting options, including the usual font panel and menu commands, plus you can easily create tables, numbered or bulleted lists, and live links to web pages.
To help add characters to text, a Casting Assistant is available. It supports a very simple format of “<name>: <text>”, such as is often used for chat transcripts and similar formats. It adds characters based on the names it finds, assigning random actors to them as a starting point.
The speech synthesis is usually very good, but it isn’t always perfect. To help you improve the pronunciation of tricky words, Narrator includes Dictionary preferences. There, you can enter a list of words to look for, and words or phrases to use instead when speaking. You can replace an acronym or symbol with a more elegant phrasing, or spell words differently so they are pronounced correctly.
Narrator 2 requires Leopard. If you are running an older operating system you can request a Narrator 1 license which still works, however lacks a few of the new features.
Try Narrator Now!
Download and try Narrator! For more information, see the Narrator site.